Saturday, March 05, 2011

Weekend Cooking: NZ in a Glass

I really wasn't much of a wine drinker until a few years ago, despite the fact that I grew up not far from one of the more famous wine growing districts in Australia - or maybe I should say the world - the Barossa Valley. These days I will drink red or white wine, but if I had to choose it would be white, and usually Sauvignon Blanc.

If I am going to buy wine, I usually stick to a couple of brands that I know, and I don't really take that many chances. I should start going to wineries to find some other brands.

When I was at an age to drink legally, most of my friends were either non drinkers or, probably closer to the truth, drank in secret as a result of the fact that we were affiliated with The Salvation Army, who have no alcohol as one of their rules.  As we got older, and started drifting away from those rules, it was generally beer or spirits that we drank.

The closest I ever got to going on a winery tour was when I was about 15 and we did a bicycle tour of the Barossa Valley. We did stop at a couple of wineries as we peddled our way around the area, but obviously that was all non alcoholic. What a hard slog that was. I was the only person in the group who had a bike without gears, and there were lots of hills!

I remember going to a pub in London and have a discussion with some other people at the bar. I can't have been living in London for all that long because I still sounded like an Aussie at this stage. They asked me where I was from and when I said Adelaide, they were very impressed - lots of lovely wine in the Barossa Valley. I had to somewhat sheepishly admit that even though I lived around 45 minutes away from there I hadn't actually had wine from the Barossa. Even sadder is the fact that my grandparents live just around the corner from one of the more famous wineries in the Swan Valley area near Perth, and I have never been there either or tasted any of their wines!

These days the wine tasting tour still hasn't happened because someone has to be the designated driver and then there is the issue of having the boy with me, but a couple of Mondays ago I got the opportunity to do some wine tasting because the wine came to us here in Melbourne.

The event was called New Zealand in a Glass and featured around 80 wineries in a large room, all trying to tempt us to try their wares, which could include anywhere between 3 and 9 different types of wine to try at each stand. Now, you would have to be a pretty dedicated drinker to try something from every winery there, and it would be pretty pointless because it would be very difficult to remember which ones you liked or didn't like, let alone thinking about the fact that you had to get up and go to work the next day. Someone suggested that you should write notes as you go around, but even that was a bit problematic because I had my handbag, the gift bag we got (which included a very nice Riedel glass that we got to keep and a bottle of water) plus the wine glass. Adding paper and a pen was never really going to work! The fact that there was only one glass in the gift bag means that I have this one really nice glass, but I couldn't see how I was going to fix that issue short of accosting someone outside and taking their glass so that I could at least start a collection. Will just have to be extra careful not to break it!

There was a group of six of us, and our initial strategy was to try and stay out of the crowds by going to the far side of the room, and then from then on you chose which table to go to depending on how pretty their poster looked, or if there was no one else standing at the table at the time. Another factor was how close to the food tables the stand was - there wasn't a lot of variety food wise, but they did have some cheeses, small rolls etc. The camembert that was being served was good, but the highlight was a really strong cheddar which we kept on gravitating towards, which was great served on a cracker with a bit of quince paste.

I thought I would mention a couple of the different brands that were standouts for me. I should note that this is not a paid advertisement in any way. They are just wines that I tried and liked during the evening. I also know nothing really about types of grapes, or body or smelling strawberries and vanilla in the wine, so this is in no way a professional commentary on what I tried!

Giesen Wines - Apparently this is a pretty well established brand here in Australia, but I had never tried it before. I really liked Giesen "The Brothers" Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2009.

Golden Hills Estate - the wines from here were winners with both the red and white wine drinkers in the group, with one of my friends declaring one of the red wines her favourite of the whole night. Available to try were Golden Hills Estates Sauvignon Black Nelson 2010, Golden Hills Estates Pinot Gris Nelson 2009, Golden Hills Estates Pinot Noir Nelson 2009 and Golden Hills Estates Syrah Nelson 2009 (I am pretty sure that this was the red that was really well liked. The only issue with this winery (and it was something that came up a few times during the night) was that there is no Australian distributor for their wines. Earlier in the day there had been a trade show so they are working on that, but it was a bit disappointing to find a wine that you liked but then you would have to go to New Zealand to buy it!

No. 1 Family Estate - this family owned winery specialise in methode traditionelle sparkling wines, and they had three options to choose from Shooting Star Sparking Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough NV), No. 1 Family Estate Cuvee No. 1 Sparkling (Marlborough NV) and No. 1 Family Estate Cuvee No. 8 Sparkling (Marlborough NV). The no. 1 was really nice, but it is more a special celebration wine!

There was also a really nice Blanc de Blanc that I tried, but I can't remember what winery it is from. That was bound to happen.

Not all of the wines were great. There were a couple that were very average, and then there was one exhibitor who was too busy having a conversation with someone to even take a break from talking to her to acknowledge you as he was pouring the sample. That is probably the most memorable winery name from the whole night, but for all the wrong reasons.

 One thing that was kind of amusing was that there was a water company sponsoring the event (water that comes in very groovy bottles), but at various times in the night the salesman was there telling a crowd around him about how the water had a smooth palate and had come to the surface through the minerals etc etc. Amused me to see a water salesman trying to do the same kind of sales pitch as we were getting from the winery sales people.

I've just realised that two of my last three Weekend Cooking posts have been about alcohol! I really don't drink that much! Whenever I buy more wine to put in the fridge my son tells me off because there are already 7 or 8 bottles in the fridge. I keep on telling him that it isn't an issue because the number of bottles in the fridge doesn't ever go down, so I buy them but never actually drink any of them!

So, how about you? Are you a red or white wine drinker? Sparkling or still wine? Do you have a favourite wine, or a favourite wine region, you would like to recommend to us? Or are you strictly a beer or spirits drinker?

 Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.


  1. I love visiting wineries. Washington State's are a bit of a challenge as they are spread out a bit too far to hop from one to the other. Oregon's Willamette Valley is very cool and much easier to visit several. They have a twice yearly open house party (Memorial day and Thanksgiving weekend) with music, special treats and more going on.

    California has some interesting regions, but my favorite is the Anderson Valley or those in the Gold country in the Sierra Nevada Foothills (they make some awesome reds there...)

  2. Great post, same here, I don't live that far from the Long Island Wineries and just never had the chance yet! Sauvignon Blanc is my favorite, but recently tried some Shiraz and loved it!

  3. I am not much of a wine drinker myself but think it looks so beautiful I wish I did enjoy the flavor more. I have always wanted to visit a winery... I think it would be so interesting.

  4. We have a glass of wine most nights but I often forget to take notes or write down what we like. And when you wrote this :"I also know nothing really about types of grapes, or body or smelling strawberries and vanilla in the wine" I laughed out loud. I can never tell those things either.

    I like dry wine, so tend to go for red. But I too like Sauvignon Blanc on occasion.

    I'm hoping that we can get some of these wines where I live. I don't live in an area know for its wine and I've never visited a vineyard.

  5. Sometimes I think I'm not smart enough to drink
    wine! :<) Lately I've read a few articles that say to just drink what you like and not to worry about the cost or place it comes from. Apparently cheap wines can be as good as pricey. Anyhow, when I do drink it - it is red only. Pinot Noir or Merlot or Chianti. The labels are so much fun that I often buy based on the name. Yesterday's was Dad's Day Off, an Italian Pinot Noir. And it was good!

  6. I loved your post - although I may be slightly biased being a NZer! Yes, we do have amazing wines. If you like Sav Blanc - have you tried Kim Crawfords? Delicious!
    I'm more a red wine girl and on summer days a rose girl, but a friend of mine has lately introduced us to dessert wine - NZ dessert wine - of course, and it is simply divine. Like golden nectar in a bottle!

  7. I am not much of a drinker full stop, but every now and again I like a glass, preferably a white or rose. I tend to favour Australian or Italian wines, and I once had a rather dodgy experience with a bottle of Bulgarian red!

  8. I can't go to events like this...alcohol has a very fast effect on me. After two drinks, it all gets blurry.
    not that I don't go to them..I just don't remember too much. ;-)

  9. Caite, the thing about an event like that is knowing how much you have actually had to drink, because you only get a little bit of wine each time you try something but you soon lose track of how many little bits you have had!

    Anglers Rest, I wouldn't think that the Bulgarian wine industry would be that big!

    Book Gatherer, I haven't tried Kim Crawfords. I will have to keep an eye out for it. We have been drinking quite a few Muscatos recently. Our favourite is Brown Brothers which is an Australian winery

    Nan, that is pretty much my philosophy, but that does mean that you do tend to buy the same brands over and over again.

    Beth, I am not sure about Golden Hills, but the others might be accessible in the US. I don't tend to drink much because it seems pointless to open a bottle when there is just me here to drink it.

    Sheila, most of the time when I do get to a winery it is because there are other events being held there, not just for the wine itself.

    Carol we should make a pact to go to some of our local wineries and then post about it!

    Misfit, some popular events that they have here over summer include concerts by big names being held out under the stars. Who knows, one of these days I might get to one fo those.

  10. What a fun event! We have a nephew in the wine import and distribution business so this is a renewed area of interest for us.

  11. Kiwi wines are a favourite at our house. We hope to do a wine tour there on our next visit. I have a friend who doesn't drink and we plan for her to be the driver.

  12. Very interesting blogpost! I'd love to visit a winery or join a winetasting one day. I don't really have a preference for white/red/rosé, it just depends on what sort of food the wine is paired with. I do really enjoy sparkly wine in summer, and lately we've been drinking French apple cider & poiré too (really good!)

  13. Wine is not my thing, but I have always wanted to go to a tasting to see what it's all about. Great detailed post considering it was a while ago. Glad you had fun with friends :)

  14. Ah, one of my favorite things to do. I adore wine, most wines...well...good wines. I'm much more of a deep red person than anything else but I like tastings. This was a great post!

  15. Hey, nice site you have here! Keep up the excellent work!

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